"At the Summit of the Americas held in December 1994, 34 hemispheric democracies agreed to create a 'Free Trade Area of the Americas' (FTAA) no later than the year 2005. If created, the FTAA would have 34 members (Cuba is not included) with over 800 million people. The population alone would make it the largest free trade area in the world with more than twice the 375 million of the now 15-nation European Union. In the eight years following the 1994 summit, Western Hemisphere trade ministers have met seven times to advance the negotiating process. At the sixth meeting in Buenos Aires in April 2001, ministers made public a draft FTAA agreement that included preliminary chapters on all nine negotiating groups: market access, agriculture, intellectual property rights, services, investment, government procurement, competition policy, dispute settlement, and subsidies. At the seventh Ministerial held in Quito, Ecuador in early November 2002, trade ministers agreed to specific mileposts for the markets access portion of the negotiations. Assessments differ on whether the movement toward hemispheric free trade is 'on-track' or 'off-track.' The former perspective holds that a solid foundation and structure for the negotiations has been agreed to, draft chapters have been submitted, and that a timetable for market access offers has been established The latter perspective holds that political and economic turbulence in Latin America, particularly in Argentina and Venezuela, combined with differences over agricultural trade are impeding efforts to achieve hemispheric free trade."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB95017
U.S. Department of State: http://fpc.state.gov/